Lets Play Truth Monopoly!

“It was a close place.  I took it up, and held it in my hand.  I was trembling Because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it.  I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”- and tore it up” Huckleberry Finn


I wrote a bit about the beginnings of my convincement process in an earlier post, but a certain part of that story, a part that reaches into a tender spot, has kept rising in me the last couple of days.  I’m also trying to think about the balance I want to find between sharing too much of my personal life online and not sharing enough, and I’d certainly welcome advice from other people who have been blogging for awhile!  However, while this story includes some parts of me that I wish were never true, I’ve concluded that the best place to put it is into the Light.  So, here we go.

In talking with other convinced Friends, I have frequently encountered a common thread in their stories, and it goes something like this:

“I feel like I was a Quaker even before I knew about Quakers…”

The story will then usually visit a certain Quaker value that they connected with early on.  For some this was the peace testimony, and for others it might be the witness to the equality of every human being.

For myself, it was the Quaker understanding of Truth.
When I was 12 years old, my Truth was unquestionably true.  I had asked Jesus into my heart, all my sins were forgiven, and I would go to Heaven someday.  Others would go to Hell, but God would have given them a chance to hear about and accept Jesus before they died…Have you ever had something that has been extremely comforting turn into something tormenting? I hope not.
If Jesus is THE truth and THE life, then the implication is that a life without Christ is a life of lies and death.  A house built upon sand, not a rock…as that incessant Sunday school song went.

If the Truth is out there and I don’t have it, then what will I do?

When I was 13 years old, I realized something awful.  I was gay, and suddenly my relationship with capitol T-ruth was changed…forever.  Its really different when the hell bound sinners with the rainbow flags on the news who once repulsed you…become your community.  It took me quite awhile to feel much commonality with them at all, but in High School I began to let them closer into my heart, and I found something surprising.  I was having a harder time accepting that any of them were going to Hell.

Yeah, even when I had accepted being gay, I’d also pretty much recognized that I was going to Hell.  It was too hard for me to resist my temptations and become straight. This made me sad for myself, but thats just how it was going to be.

But for my friends…the people who I was growing to love more each day…this would not do.

These LGBTQ people who were so gentle, kind, and accepting. These people who held their heads high in spite of daily inhumane attacks on their dignity. These people would show up, when the Christian students would not.

How could a God of love send a people as beautiful as the queer community into an eternal hell?…Matter of fact, how could people who were following different faiths be sent to Hell?  How could nice people be sent to Hell?  How could anyone I had met be sent to Hell?

Are they going to hell? Well?!?! Are they! Answer the question!!!…damnit!

Through my tears, I knew my answer.

…you know what? I don’t think that they are.

I’d been so careful to keep my guard up among non-Christian friends as a kid, of course we could still be friends, but to let them close would be risking inviting myself to sin.  However, it was self-evident that I was encountering true goodness in people outside of the Church, I’d say today that I encountered the Light in them.  

I did not feel like goodness could be sent to Hell, but if it was to be sent there, then I would gladly go to Hell with it.
I’d much rather live a compassionate and skeptical life where I had no truth, than an arrogant life of faith where the truth made me a monster.  And so, when I 18 years old I abandoned the last bits of my faith.

I’m glad you are staying with me reader, there will be many stories from this time to tell later, but we are going to fast forward again.  

Early Quakers wanted their lives to be testimonies to the power of the Light of Christ that they encountered.  They would cross countries and oceans to talk about it, some would even be persecuted and killed for it.  Now I had read stories of martyrs and charlatans before, but a truly remarkable thing that set Quakers apart for me, was their complete acknowledgment of other people who were not Quakers, but were listening to the Light.

I had not encountered a religion before that strongly believed in Truth…but also did not claim to have a monopoly on it.

I will never play that game again, and my early aversion to claiming unquestionable truth is one way that I felt like I was a Quaker for years before I arrived at West Hills Friends. 
Some assume when I self-describe as an Evangelical Friend, that in the same breath I have judged and condemned them to Hell, or that I have claimed a special knowledge; let the soul saving begin!  Oh lord, I hope it is clear now that this is far from what I am like.

Even if I’m wrong, a life lived according to the teachings of Christ is compelling to me.  I’d like to try it out, and it is worth it to me that being wrong is a possibility.

I don’t have THE truth, and I don’t need to have it.

I don’t need to practice rote memorization of scripture to drown out that compassionate thing that I feel in my heart.

With humility, as Friends before me have done, I will try my best to seek the Truth.  The best I can hope to find is a piece, and I can trust that others I am seeking with are finding their piece of it too.


When I was 23 years old, I found that I could listen to that piece, I could sing about it, and I could let it breathe in me.  

6 comments:

  1. Great stuff, Maynard, keep it coming!

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    1. Thanks Peggy!...but whats Maynard?

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    2. That's a really old pop culture reference, sorry. Maynard was a beatnik. nevermind

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  2. "Early Quakers wanted their lives to be testimonies to the power of the Light of Christ that they encountered. They would cross countries and oceans to talk about it, some would even be persecuted and killed for it. Now I had read stories of martyrs and charlatans before, but a truly remarkable thing that set Quakers apart for me, was their complete acknowledgment of other people who were not Quakers, but were listening to the Light.

    I had not encountered a religion before that strongly believed in Truth…but also did not claim to have a monopoly on it."

    I think this points to the question that NWYM is being called to answer more accurately than a stance on human sexuality. Are we a people who are joined in our commitment to listen to and follow the Light of Christ, or are we a people who are committed to a precisely defined formulation of Truth, as specified on pages 7-9 of the Faith and Practice?

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    1. You speak my mind, dear Friend : ) thanks for reading!

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